Four wheels good, two wheels best: Tour de France winner Chris Froome tries his hand as a racing driver

Fresh from his Tour de France victory, Chris Froome has swapped the saddle for the driving seat

You get the impression Chris Froome doesn't really know what's hit him. A month ago he was pedalling furiously up some of Europe's toughest climbs in the successful pursuit of his first Tour de France victory. Now he's been decked out in his skintight suit and is being asked to pedal furiously against a Jaguar F-type on a private test track. Such is the price of fulfilling your life's ambition. "Although I watched [teammate] Bradley [Wiggins] go through this last year, I didn't really appreciate how different winning the Tour would be compared to finishing second, as I did in 2012. I've only had two days at home since June and now I'm on the road for another month."

This morning started with interviews from 8am, then he's off to Heathrow for a flight to the US and his first competitive event since his victory in Paris. In comparison to the feisty, charismatic Sir Wiggo, Froome is a considered, quietly spoken and introspective character. One suspects he'd rather be punishing his body on some god-forsaken hillside than talking to a journalist, but he knows it's part of the game. Moreover, he admits he's enjoying some of the trappings of success.

After he won this year's Tour, Team Sky sponsor Jaguar presented Froome with a F-type roadster, complete with a bespoke yellow stripe. There's a picture of him leaving a Paris hotel looking like a cat who's found an endless supply of cream. This trip to Jaguar's private test track at Gaydon in Warwickshire is a chance for him to drive without the constraints of the law and celebrity status.

Cycling might be best known as an endurance sport, but there are more similarities with motor racing than you might think. On this year's Tour, the riders descended Alpine and Pyrenean passes at more than 60mph on skinny tyres and wearing little more than Lycra. Staying upright and in touch with the man in front requires plenty of skill and big balls.

"It's all about taking the right line and conserving momentum, like on a race track," explains Froome. It's a dangerous game.

On the stage to Gap this year, Froome very nearly crashed while chasing arch rival Alberto Contador. Serious injuries are common and in 1995 Fabio Casartelli lost his life while descending the Col de Portet d'Aspet. "When you're in the yellow jersey it's a nervous time and you're just keen to get down in one piece. But when you're out training, you can have some fun and throw the bike around a bit. It's good to get the adrenaline flowing." Froome admits his technique spills over into his driving. "I've discussed this with my teammates and we're all the same. You find yourself taking similar lines in a car. I'll instinctively find myself leaning through corners, which must look ridiculous."

Gaydon isn't known for its mountain passes, but it does have challenging high-speed corners and a long stretch of what looks like motorway. It's here that Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin test drivers develop the cars of tomorrow.

Despite living in Monaco, Froome admits he's had little experience of a proper racetrack. His everyday car is an Audi SQ5, the sporty version of Audi's SUV which, he admits, is perfect for carrying his cycling clobber. Jaguar's promised to loan him an F-type for a year, but that's commensurate on him securing an extra parking space, no easy task in Monte Carlo. Froome is ushered into the driving seat of a F-type V8 S with track manager Chris Bailey for company. There's a signature V8 roar and they're off. We stand and watch for a few minutes as the F-type powers past, Froome getting up to speed with his new discipline. Then they're back in the pits.

"That was brilliant," he says. "The car I had at the end of the tour was a V6 but the V8 is so much faster. There was a lot to get used to. I was trying to find the point at which it starts to slide, but it's got so much grip. It'd take me more time to get properly up to speed."

Bailey was impressed with his charge. "We host a lot of business leaders and celebrities here and most get above 100mph and start to feel nervous. Chris was straight up to the 155mph top speed on the straight and on the second lap he was really starting to push it in the corners.

"Through the hairpin I could feel he was trying to find the limit of the car to the point where I was starting to think 'hang on'. You can understand why he's a sportsman. He's a nice, normal guy, but you can see how focused and single-minded he is."

Minutes later, his fat-free frame is poured into a race suit and he's sent for a passenger ride in a C-X75, Jaguar's prototype for a hybrid supercar. It's not destined for production and is thus beyond the reach even of a millionaire Tour de France winner.

"It's difficult to know what was more impressive," Froome says on his return, "the near silence of the electric mode or the speed when the petrol engine kicks in."

He can barely get his words out before he's whisked off to sign some shirts and then pose for shots on his bike. This must be his life now. I can tell he's enjoyed the experience and tells he'd "love to do a proper track day," but he's being pulled in a million different directions.

By the end, I almost feel sorry for "Froomey". It must be a relief to finally get back on his bike.

Goes on tour... stays on tour

The basic shape of a Tour de France bike might not have changed dramatically over the years, but the technology certainly has. The Pinarello Dogma 65.1Think2 ridden by Team Sky has an asymmetrical carbon-fibre frame, an electronic gear change and weighs just 6.8kg (the minimum allowed by the cycling rules). It also has an onboard computer measuring everything from your real time power output to your heart rate and altitude. Should you feel the need to ride like a Tour winner, Pinarello will sell you one for around £10,000 but you still have to pedal yourself.

A lot less effort

An easier option than the bike is to spend £79,985 on an F-type V8 S, the fastest version of Jaguar's new roadster. It has a comfier saddle and a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 developing 488bhp. To put that into context, even a man of Froome's ability will generate little more than 2bhp on his bike.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Packaging Operatives

    £7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for two indivi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

    £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Estimator

    £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas